Fear Itself – Skin and Bones (07/31/08)

On a nice little farm located somewhere in the fabulous matte paintings of the American west, Derek Edlund is saddling his horse to search for his missing father.  His uncle Rowdy tells him it is too dangerous what with the coming storm.  Before his uncle can take his place, Grady Edlund comes stag-gering onto the farm.

Rowdy calls an Indian they keep stored in an Airstream trailer for such occasions — the unfortunately-named Eddie Bear.[1]  The two men are able to get the skeletal Grady up to bed.  After ten days in the mountains, Grady is extremely emaciated, with not an ounce of fat or moisture in his body.  He has basically turned into Iggy Pop.

There are a lot a weird dynamics going on here.  Derek says his father bought the farm to give Rowdy a place to live.  The farm is operating at a loss every year.  And apparently Rowdy is having a life-long fling with his sister-in-law Elena.

As a Native American presented by Hollywood, Eddie Bear is of course the first to leap to a mystical explanation for Grady’s condition. He believes that Grady was possessed by a windigo.[2]

Grady tells Elena that his group got lost on the mountain.  They holed up in a cave.  Chuck And Billy went for help.  Grady and Jasper were so weak they stayed behind.  Yada yada, cannibalism.  Jasper wasn’t the only thing to enter Grady’s body, though — the windigo also occupied his cadaverous carcass.  As he seems about ready to chow down on Elena, Rowdy points a rifle at him. Grady begins howling and zipping about.  I must say it is pretty unnerving.

Eddie Bear approaches him with . . . what do you think?  A gun?  A knife?  A baseball bat?  No, he’s an Indian, so Hollywood has to put a tomahawk in his hands.  Oh, maybe the script calls it a hatchet, but we know what they were going for.  I’m surprised his mobile home is not a teepee in the back of a pick-up.  Anyhoo, Grady swats him down like a fly.

Rowdy gets Elena and the kids out to Eddie Bear’s trailer and leaves a gun with Derek to protect them.  As Rowdy leaves to confront Grady, he tells Elena, “If I don’t make it back, tell the kids the truth.”  Because after their father kills their uncle, finding out their uncle actually just killed their father will pep them right up as they cower in fear with their tramp mother, distraught in the fugue of their new-found bastardhood.

There’s not much plot here to get traction on, but it is an enjoyable ride.  The final act plays out about as grizzly and suspenseful as you can expect from network TV. Sadly, if this series did not survive, that just tells me there is no place for horror on broadcast television.

Another good outing.  But let’s raise a glass for poor Grady Edlund:  “well-appointed city-dweller”, his brother’s keeper, 15-year cuckold, possessed by a windigo 1,000 miles out of its jurisdiction, killed by his wife.


  • [1] Mockable in two ways: the corporate Eddie Bauer, and the emasculating (T)eddie Bear.
  • [2] Of course, a Hollywood Indian is not expected to actually know any facts.  Like, say, that the windigo legend is local to the Great Lakes Region.
  • [3] Eddie Bear is always referred to as Eddie Bear which strikes me as a little racist.  It’s not like his name is Running Bear where the words go together.  Why not just call him Eddie, or Mr. Bear or Chief?  Well, I guess that last one isn’t better.
  • Larry Fessenden also wrote & directed Windigo in 2001.  This not where Eddie Bear got his information, as it takes place in upstate New York.
  • IMDb and YouTube.


Fear Itself – Community (07/24/08)

As great as Christopher Reeve was as Superman, there was a stiffness in his portrayal that wasn’t acting. He was able to exploit it for earnestness in Superman and add a comedic element to embody Clark Kent. Those are two fine achievements in a single film, but in other roles, that stiffness served no higher purpose. In that respect, Brandon Routh was the logical heir to the role.

He has that same stiffness, but it isn’t really a problem here either.  He is, after all, supposed to be the stolid moral center of the episode.  Even the opening shot (well, post-flashforward) has that vibe.  We see him from the rear carrying groceries and my first thought was “That’s Clark Kent” — a square-shouldered doofus working below his pay-grade.

Bobby walks up the stairs to their apartment to find his wife Tracy in a towel.  This is where the show’s roots on Showtime would have been an asset.  Tracy shows Bobby a pregnancy test.  He seems relieved that it is negative, because Tracy did not want a child yet.  But then she is upset that he is happy that she got what she wanted.  Sloppy writing or uncanny portrayal of domestic life?  You be the judge.

Tracy wants to have their first child grow up in the suburbs.  Some friends suggest they try The Commons.  Well there was that thing where The Commons weren’t so welcoming when they thought the friends would have no more kids . . . but that was probably nothing.

Tracy and Bobby drive the Volvo — they’re fitting in already — out to the suburbs to the gated community of The Commons.  They get a tour which informs them that The Commons was founded on a growing need for family values, good neighborhoods, friendly neighbors and low crime.  There is a house for sale conveniently stocked with furniture almost as if the previous owner had been suddenly killed and buried out by the dumpster.  Two days later, they are closing on the house.

At a community Christmas party, there seems to be even more tension than a typical Christmas party.  One of the neighbors has an outburst kind of like Dan Collins in It’s a Good Life.  His wife gives him a good slap and he falls through a glass coffee table. Something is clearly not right here.

One night as Bobby is channel-surfing, he comes across a channel showing the bedroom of one of his neighbors.  Living in South Florida, I can tell you this isn’t necessarily a good thing.  He witnesses a husband busting in on his wife and a neighbor who are having an affair.

The next night at the homeowner’s association meeting, her husband is asked what the appropriate punishment for his wife should be.  Apparently his choice was to have his wife stand in the town square in a pig mask and have garbage thrown at her because that is what Bobby witnesses the next day.

The HOA President drops by one day to ask Bobby and Tracy if they need any help conceiving a child.  Bobby reads the fine print in the Deed and finds that they are required to conceive within 6 months of joining the community.  Failure to do so will result in the foreclosure of your property and loss of equity.  Tracy isn’t entirely against this.

Finally, Tracy gets a positive on the pregnancy test.  Their euphoria is as short-lived as their neighbor who they see running down Main Street.  The neighbors, who have a Simpsons-like habit of all showing up together, agree that it was suicide when Bobby clearly saw that it was not.

Bobby and Tracy come up with a plan to get her out of the Community. She leaves, but Bobby stays behind to provide an ending for the episode.  When the time is right, he makes a run for it — literally, on foot.

The neighbors take off after him with flashlights and an oddly eclectic mix of beating instruments — snow shovels, brooms, golf clubs, hockey sticks.  So I guess this is a gun-free zone.  Thank God, or he’d really be in trouble.  Or, you know, safe.

Five years later, Tracy is the new HOA President.  We see Bobby staring despondently at her through the window as she indoctrinates a new couple.  The twist is that his legs have been amputated because he ran, but this ending seems botched in a couple of ways.  It is revealed that he is in a wheelchair, then the amputation is revealed a few seconds later.  I guess they were going for a set-up and a spike.  Sadly, what they produced was an easing into the twist rather than a shock.

Also, the neighbor who had the outburst at the party was earlier revealed to have a prosthetic leg — so, ho-hum on the amputated legs.  Maybe they should have given the neighbor a couple of missing fingers, or even a hand to get the ball rolling.  Or a ball.

There is also the sudden embrace of the community by his wife.  I can sort of accept this as the Rosemary Woodhouse Syndrome, plus this does seem an ideal place to raise a child (aside from the murders and dismemberment).  However, their friend who originally suggested The Commons is also thinking of moving in now.  This is a complete non-sequitur.  He has no kids, has signed no documents, and has seen what Bobby & Tracy have endured.

Nevertheless, I liked it.  But then I’m a sucker for a mysterious town or workplace.  This episode had a lot in common with It’s a Good Life, Rosemary’s Baby, Devil’s Advocate, The Firm, Stepford Wives, etc.  It isn’t as good as any of them, but it was sufficiently creepy to keep me on board.


  • I’m ashamed of myself for not making the connection of another Superman confined to a wheelchair.  There’s nothing funny about that; so it would have fit right in above.

Fear Itself – New Year’s Day (07/17/08)

Helen wakes up on the titular New Years Day feeling a little woozy.  She manages to make it to the bathroom to pray to the porcelain god.  She hears sirens and a bullhorn warning, “This is not a drill.”  Clearly it is not a drill — it is a bullhorn, duh!  She goes to a neighbor’s apartment and finds blood on the floor.  Checking on her roommate, she finds his room covered in blood also.

finyd1In a scene I can’t figure out, Helen’s cellphone rings. When she answers, she gets her not-boyfriend James’ voice mail as if she called him . . . the end.  For me, anyway.  I did finish watching it, but couldn’t bring myself to make any notes.

I watched this episode stunned almost from the first second at how awful it is.  The performances from Helen and James are incredibly ordinary.  Anyone in the audience of a community theater could have brought more to their parts.  Helen’s roommate Eddie and her girlfriend Christie come off a little better.

The real problem is the visual experience.  The lighting is terrible and the editing is god-awful with constant jump-cuts.  On a completely different level, the choppiness of the narrative also dooms the episode.  We are constantly switching between New Years Eve and New Years Day.  The whole episode is just offensively poorly conceived.

finyd6Along the way we are supposed to care about these adults.  Helen tells James she loves him after misinterpreting something their friend Eddie told her.  Eddie has an unrequited crush on Helen and expresses it with sudden awkward kisses.  Helen is heart-broken to see James swapping spit with Christie.  If the twist of this episode was that these were 13 year-olds who were somehow transported into adult bodies, I would have believed it.

Happily, that was not the twist.  The sole redeeming aspect of this episode is an excellent reveal that caught me completely by surprise.  If anyone is masochistic enough to sit through this episode, they deserve to be surprised.  There is another shocker after that, but spatially it makes no sense, and it adds nothing to the story.

I rate New Years Day 1 out of 365.


  • Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of Saw II – IV.
  • Briana Evigan (Helen) was in Burning Bright which I remember as being pretty good.  She is locked in a house.  That is boarded up, preventing escape.  A hurricane is coming.  She has her autistic brother with her.   And, oh yeah, there’s a goddamn tiger in the house!  Best set-up evah — but sadly all I remember is she wore a hot wife-beater for the whole movie.
  • Her father Greg was in a series in the 1970’s about a trucker who traveled with a chimp named Bear.  Them Eviganses loves animals more than the Irwinses!  Well, before.

Fear Itself – Eater (07/03/08)

It takes two cops to bring Duane “Eater” Mellor into the station.  They install him in the kind of cage that we need more of — unpainted, crumbling walls, exposed bricks, a metal toilet.

After the officers leave, he pulls a butt-plug out of his sleeve, rattles it, and begins chanting.  Upon closer examination, it might be some sort of voodoo paraphernalia.  It has feathers on on end, so would be ticklish in either case.

At the night shift roll call, the guys are making fun of Officer Dani [1] Bannerman [2] for reading a horror magazine.  The Sargent advises them that Eater is upstairs.  “Over the last two years, he has killed over thirty people in five different states [3].  In each case, he took the victims home, usually killing the males outright; keeping the females alive for days, sometimes weeks, playing with them, torturing them, and eventually eating them.”

Dani is quite the horror fan, correcting the other dopes when they get facts wrong about Silence of the Lambs.  She can’t wait to get her hands on Eater’s file to check out the grizzly pictures.  The other cops are fairly dickish, teasing her for being a girl-cop.  She is slapped on the head with a magazine, food is rubbed on her uniform, and an inflatable sex doll is hidden in her locker.

As Dani reads the file, she imagines the scene where Eater cuts off a captive woman’s tongue and fries it up.  Despite not being very bloody, this is admirably horrific for network television.  When he goes back for seconds and raises the tin-snips to her nose, I was genuinely disgusted.  Kudos to everyone involved.

Dani goes upstairs to take a fan-girlish look at the killer.  She is worried when she sees him motionless under a blanket in the cell.  The rest of the episode is an exercise in suspense and mistaken identity.  Eater is a Cajun which — like being African American on Tales From the Crypt — automatically means he has voodoo powers.  You rarely see mystical Asian stereotypes because that would mean they would have to hire Asians. He has eaten the hearts of Dani’s fellow officers Mattingley and Steinwitz, and is thereby able to shape-shift into their form.  In fact, he is so skilled at the blackened arts that he is able to shape-shift into their differently ranked uniforms also.

That is both the appeal and the curse of the episode.  Mattingley and Steinwitz as themselves were obnoxious jerks of Trumpian proportions.  When possessed by Eater, they become even worse — fidgety, sweaty and grotesque.  As the last half of the episode consists of each them alternately alone with Dani as she figures out what they really are, they wear out there welcome very quickly.

Finally, the Sargent comes back and Dani shows him the two officers’ dead bodies. Unfortunately, there is a third dead body.  As in Triangle, Timecrimes and others that don’t leap to mind, its head is conveniently covered.  When Dani unmasks him, it is the real Sargent — dead with a hole in his forehead.  This is strange as the ritual was said to require a still-beating heart — so why the head-shot?

The end is abrupt, silly and awesome.  Another good episode from the short-lived series. They got away with some surprisingly gruesome images and a pretty graphic blowjob gag (no pun intended).  Elizabeth Moss as Bannerman really made the episode.  Russell Hornsby as the Sargent and Stephen R. Hart as Eater were both solid, but were not on screen as much as Moss.  Maybe the other two cops needed to be repulsive to make the story work — if so, well done.


  • [1] IMDb credits Elizabeth Moss as Danny, but that just doesn’t work for me.
  • [2] A clear reference to Stephen King.  Sheriff George Bannerman appeared in five King novels / short stories.
  • [3] I have to give Fear Itself credit — they don’t believe in half measures or full lives. The killer in Family Man with 26 must be humiliated net to this maniac

Fear Itself – In Sickness and in Health (06/26/08)

fiinsickness0103bThe opening shots of this episode made me think of Trading Places — the orchestral score, the static shots of landmarks and objets d’art.  Sure enough, the episode was directed by John Landis.  After being hooked immediately by this, the camera settle on two insanely cute little kids.  In a scene almost never seen in movies, they are just cute, having fun and running around screaming like kids — not smarter than the adults, not sexualized, not robotic quipsters.

The adults are both occupied and pre-occupied preparing for the wedding of Samantha and Carlos that day.  Carlos is running late, but as the lovely Samantha is waiting around in her slip, I’m in no hurry for him to show up.  She is given a letter which she hopes contains money.  It contains an item not even on her registry — a note reading “The person you are marrying is a serial killer.”

She feels better after going to the groom’s dressing room and not being killed.  She does, however, ask that the “death do us part” section be removed from the vows.  No, seriously she does.

fiinsickness0107She asks her bridesmaid to point out the woman — described as tall with a red scarf on her head —  who gave her the note.  They actually see the woman outside the church, but she gets in a cab before they can catch her.  Samantha and Carlos get hitched without a hitch.  Well, until a guy starts hacking up phlegm during the always-suspenseful “if anyone objects” section.  False alarm, but well played!

After the ceremony, Samantha goes back to the dressing room to get into something a little more comfortable.  Her bridesmaids badger her about what was in the note.  After all, she has not known Carlos very long and they are worried.  Samantha shows her appreciation by throwing them out and slamming the door in their faces.

fiinsickness0108She regrets that when she starts hearing strange noises.  She ventures out in the hall which is now dark thanks to a gloved hand turning off the lights.  She runs into the preacher and he tells her that he had performed the wedding of Carlos parents.  It was memorable for reasons he won’t divulge.

At the after-party, Carlos’ uncle tells the story of Carlos’ parents.  His parents disappeared when he was 16, but we again get no details.  Samantha finally confronts Carlos and he does kind of act like an asshole.  He storms off and Samantha finds him in the church.  Turns out he thinks the note was just ratting him out about a dinner he had with another woman.  There is, however, another revelation that is well worth sticking around for.


I hate it when people hide behind Jesus.

I am kind of baffled by the beating this episode takes in the IMDb reviews.  OK, a few of the herrings are a little too red.  And, to be honest, there is about 5-10 minutes that just don’t need to be there.  However, the performances are great, and Landis’ direction makes this into something special.


  • Written by Victor Salva which puts a creepy spin on the opening scene with the kids.
  • Both Maggie Lawson (Samantha) and James Roday (Carlos) were regulars on Psych.